Can Science Make Cigarettes Safer?

Courtesy of Vector Tobacco  READY, SET, STOP: Quest's 'step down' low- and no-nicotine cigarettes. The major toxins in cigarettes, perhaps surprisingly, don't come from the chemicals that manufacturers add. "The carcinogens mostly come from the burning of tobacco," says Kenneth Warner, director, University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network. Just burning tobacco also produces carbon monoxide, a big contributor to heart disease. So, tobacco companies are turning to science to make ciga

Mignon Fogarty
Mar 23, 2003
Courtesy of Vector Tobacco
 READY, SET, STOP: Quest's 'step down' low- and no-nicotine cigarettes.

The major toxins in cigarettes, perhaps surprisingly, don't come from the chemicals that manufacturers add. "The carcinogens mostly come from the burning of tobacco," says Kenneth Warner, director, University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network. Just burning tobacco also produces carbon monoxide, a big contributor to heart disease.

So, tobacco companies are turning to science to make cigarettes safer. Through chemistry, mechanics, and genetic engineering, companies are producing cigarettes that they claim reduce secondhand smoke, and have fewer carcinogens and less nicotine.

One such product, Eclipse, heats tobacco rather than burning it. Inside a cigarette-like tube, heated glycerin and tobacco produce vaporized nicotine. The process produces less tar1 but more carbon monoxide,2 says Warner. With another product, Accord, users insert special cigarettes into a small electronic device. The unit's microprocessor ignites the cigarette when the...

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?